While it’s easy to write off climate change as someone else’s problem, some of the possible consequences paint a dire picture of what the future may hold. One of the more frightening aspects of global warming is the potential effects on drinking water supplies.
The Shortage No One Can Afford
Some of the impacts of climate change came into sharp focus with the drought conditions in the United States. The effects ranged from crop losses to reduced output of hydropower plants in California. A study published in the August 9, 2012 issue of Nature reveals another impending crisis looming.
Researchers found that the global use of groundwater reserves is outpacing the planet’s ability to replenish them. To assess the situation, they developed a water footprint to calculate use versus supply. Many aquifers are under enormous pressure because of agriculture and the water used for irrigation. The situation is especially critical in North America and Asia.
Water resources face tremendous pressure from the growing demands on supplies. The drought conditions, for example, pitted farmers against natural-gas operations. Within agriculture, there existed a cauldron of competing demands for biofuels and food production. The dry summer only exacerbated the situation.
Yet another concern revolves around water availability. With reduced precipitation, surface water resources have also felt the strain. However, the issue is not just about how much water there is, but how safe the existing water is.
Lower water levels and higher temperatures create the perfect conditions for bacteria formation. A suburban lake in Minnesota was closed to the public after the deaths of two children caused by a rare amoeba that thrived in the conditions caused by the extreme summer heat.
The 2012 study shows that both aquifers in addition to surface water sources are affected by the consequences of climate change. While the summer of 2012 may be a blip on the radar, it exposes another vulnerability and one which cannot be ignored.
Nature may adapt to the changing conditions, but no life can exist without water. Hot summers can be endured, but reduced water availability represents a shortage no one can afford.